Two confirmed cases of COVID-19 on U of M campuses

Steering committee aims to safely recover from ‘dynamic challenges COVID-19 presents’

So far into the fall semester, U of M has seen at least two confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The first, announced Sept. 21, was on the Bannatyne campus. Close contacts were identified and notified by Manitoba Public Health and self-isolated.

There was one close contact who developed symptoms but was later found to be negative. The university reported that no other positive cases of U of M individuals were linked to the first one.

Members of the Rady faculty of health sciences were reminded by faculty dean and vice-provost (health sciences) Brian Postl to adhere to protocols for physical distancing, hand hygiene and frequent disinfection of commonly touched surfaces.

As of Aug. 24, the Bannatyne campus implemented mandatory mask use while on campus, applying to all faculty members, students and visitors.

In addition, two complimentary reusable masks were issued to faculty members, staff and students and there are four entrances to the building, all of which require screening to enter.

The second confirmed case was communicated only to members of the school of art on Sept. 25.

Marcia Anderson, one of the vice-deans of the Rady faculty of health sciences, said “The extent of communication in terms of the audience depends on the risk assessment that is done by [Manitoba] Public Health and the actions that need to be taken in the university community.”

She said the two cases were different “in terms of the university public exposures and identification of close contacts.”

The message to members of the school of art, on behalf of school associate director (undergraduate) David Foster, said there was a positive case of COVID-19 in the program and that Manitoba Public Health is leading a case investigation.

An area in the Art Barn that the individual had been in was closed and sanitized thoroughly and reopened on Monday.

Three days after the first email, acting director of the school of art Edward Jurkowski sent a message to the members of the school of art which reported that Manitoba Public Health deemed the situation low risk.

He reminded faculty, staff and students of the importance of using ID cards and signing upon entry in order to trace who is in the building at certain times.

The U of M has created a COVID-19 recovery steering committee consisting of university faculty, students and resources in an effort to respond to the “dynamic challenges COVID-19 presents to our community.”

The committee has established four teams — academic, operations, research and health and safety — in order to “ensure that the [U of M] is planning and responding to COVID-19 in a coordinated and responsive manner,” said committee chair Todd Mondor.

Mondor reported that with the new committee structure, the team of health and safety is led by Anderson, who is a medical officer of health in addition to having her position at the Rady faculty of health sciences.

“She’s very connected to [Manitoba] Public Health and provincial considerations around [COVID-19] and she’s providing a lot of direction and guidance to the university on these issues, so we’re following her advice,” he said.

The university’s committee is largely following Manitoba Public Health directives.

Mondor asks that when students get tested and receive a result, they let their instructor know. He said if there is a significant risk to the community, Manitoba Public Health will reach out.

“Thankfully, none of the cases that we’re aware of at this point have resulted in a significant risk to other students or to anybody else in the community,” Mondor said.

“But it really is a collaboration with [Manitoba] Public Health in terms of us getting information and trying to act on it.”